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Missing Tense in Second Language Acquisition: Competence or Performance?

Dr. Gita Martohardjono

From Friday, November 30, 2012 -  11:00am
To Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 12:00am

City University of New York, The Graduate Center

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The omission and variability of inflectional morphemes, such as tense and agreement markers, have long been noted to be a characteristic of developing grammars cross-linguistically (e.g. Klein and Perdue 1997). Both adult second language learners and child first language learners are widely reported to be affected.  It has been argued that even at advanced stages of L2 acquisition and in L2 speakers who have been immersed in the second language for a long time, variability of grammatical markers persists (e.g. Hawkins 2009, Lardiere 2007).  Different explanations of this phenomenon have been offered, postulating phonological deficits (e.g. Goad, White and Steele, 2003), syntactic deficits (Hawkins and Liszka, 2003) or mapping problems between the lexicon and syntax (e.g. Prévost and White, 2000; Lardiere 2009).  All these explanations imply a deficit in the representation of the L2 grammar and, in some cases, a strong L1 transfer hypothesis. In this talk, I will present data from two adult learner groups at varying stages of L2 English proficiency (native speakers of Mandarin and Polish) and one bilingual child group (Spanish/English).  I argue that syntactic representation of tense is intact for all speaker groups; that phonological representation is intact for the Chinese group; and that, based on the bilingual child and adult Polish group, L1 transfer fails to account for the patterns observed.  Instead, I argue for a "performance model of variability" where the divergences from native speaker patterns can be explained in terms of performance factors, such as frequency, saliency and processing load. In addition, I will show that accuracy in the use of inflectional morphemes is task-sensitive and that perception/comprehension and production tasks should be used in tandem to characterize knowledge of grammar.

 

** The event is sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Rutgers University, Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS), and the Graduate Student Association.**

Dr. Gita Martohardjono